Saturday, February 28, 2009

E-campaigning trend will decentralise UK political parties

The UK Centre-Left is preparing to play catch-up in a Centre-Right domintaed blogosphere. Leading weblog commmentators and campaigners from the world of New Labour - such as Derek Draper and Tom Watson MP - are coming together at a Conference organised by think-tank, Progress in London today, to examine how they can harness new media to transform the Labour Party's campaigning.

Of course, many enthusiasts for e-campaigners will point to Obama's remarkable Presidential election campaign as the model for using internet social networking as an effective way of reaching out to voters. Obama's team were highly successful in amassing a huge network of active supporters, prepared to rally more support for Barack Obama in their local communities.

The problem for this model in the UK, however, is that political parties here are much more centralised than they are in the US. Pretty much all political messages and means of campaigning are centrally engineered.

Could e-campaigning lead to decentralised political parties in the UK? Nick Anstead, lecturer in politicas at the University of East Anglia writes in February's Progress Magazine, "We are leaving the mass media age, which was defined by collective information consumption, and entering a period of selective and participatory media..... In order to compete in such an atomised environment, parties must also be decentralised."

As for the race to dominate the blogosphere, the Weekly Political Note from Bell Pottinger Public Affairs points to a stronger Centre-Right presence. It says, "Of those listed in "The Total Politics Top 100 UK Political Blogs", 48 are on the right of the political spectrum and just 30 on the left. The BPPA political note generously gives ResEuropa a mention - although I should point out that it is neither in the Top 100 nor is it politically aligned to either the left or the right!

As soon as the European Election campaigns start in earnest, no doubt we will see UK bloggers try to tackle some European issues. However, there is no sense yet that politicians of either side of the political fence have any real sense of knowing how they could use not just their blogs but other on-line social networking tools, to improve their electoral chances.

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